Florida Gulf Coast University’s newest structure is a 27,000-square-foot, three-story paradise for the entrepreneurial minded. It officially opened Tuesday. A throng of well-wishers, including faculty, students, alumni, donors and community members, gathered to christen the facility known as Lucas Hall.
“To have access to a building like this means I have a space to work in, a space where I can collaborate with my professors, a space where I can collaborate with my peers,” said Andrew Morris, a senior in FGCU’s Daveler & Kauanui School of Entrepreneurship.
The building’s opening is a watershed moment for students, staff and faculty. Since fundraising began, they have recited a similar refrain: “We need a home.”
Starting in late 2018, before it was elevated to a school within the university, the entrepreneurship program operated from FGCU’s off-campus Emergent Technologies Institute. The opening of Lucas Hall enables entrepreneurship students to take all of their classes on the main campus for the first time.
In addition to office space and classrooms, the $10.4 million privately funded facility includes the FineMark National Bank & Trust Incubator, with shared workspaces, private conference rooms for mentors to meet with students, computers, a camera and audio recording equipment, and product and app development software. It also has direct access to expert faculty, staff and community startup coaches. Aimed at helping students create products for their businesses, the Rist Family Foundation Maker Space contains 3D printers, a laser cutter and virtual reality development kits. Lucas Hall will also feature a media lab incorporating total lighting and sound control, backdrops, props and cinema-quality audio-video equipment.
“I see this as a center of what our strategic plan is – student success. And this is what we’ll be able to provide them,” Kauanui said in 2019.
The structure is named in honor of David Lucas, who gave the university a $4 million challenge – kick-starting the campaign that fully funded the building through philanthropy. Lucas is one of FGCU’s earliest and strongest supporters. He created FGCU’s annual fundraiser, The Founder’s Cup golf tournament, the David and Linda Lucas Center for Master Planned Community Development and Finance Endowed Fund, and The Lucas Center for Faculty Development Endowed Fund.
“Entrepreneurship is what drives this country,” Lucas told FGCU360.com in 2020. “It creates jobs. Small companies make a big difference.”
“The thing that I would like to be remembered for is the fact that I have been associated with many different organizations, charitable and business alike, that have had a positive impact in the community.”
Since 2017, Kauanui built FGCU’s entrepreneurship program from a minor to major, an institute to a school. With over 600 majors, the school is now one of The Princeton Review’s and Entrepreneur magazine’s top 30 universities for undergraduate entrepreneurship studies. The school also just launched a new graduate program.
When Kauanui is asked by community leaders and economic stakeholders how Southwest Florida can keep young people in the region, she points to Lucas Hall.
“This is how you do it. The impact donors have made not just on this university, but on the whole community by doing this is a godsend. These students are staying because there’s a place they can always go back to – they have an alumni room (in Lucas Hall). They have a place to go, and they feel such strong bonds with each other,” Kauanui said.
“Lucas Hall represents that entrepreneurship is here to stay, and it is going to infuse an entrepreneurial and innovative environment across Southwest Florida.”
To learn more about FGCU’s Daveler & Kauanui School of Entrepreneurship, visit fgcu.edu/soe.